Friday, September 26, 2014

High Five for Friday

Today I'm linking up with Lauren and Jennie to share some of my favorite stuff from the past week. 

1) After surviving my first Fair of the year (with my sanity mostly intact), I got to enjoy my first day off in over two weeks. We really made the most of this weekend and had so much fun! Saturday I fixed us some really yummy ham & cheese omelets for breakfast and then enjoyed some coffee and games with Grant. Later on we took him to his first movie -Planes Fire & Rescue (finally able to convince him that movie theaters are not horrible scary places filled with evil). Now, he can't wait to go again! Had to run to Target after that so Grant & I had some fun embarrassing Husband in the Halloween section and since we were all still full from our movie food...we had ice cream for dinner :)
Yummy cup of Green Mountain coffee and some Busy Busy Airport
Waiting patiently for our cheese fries at Raleighwood Cinema & Grill
(I think this was a really neat place for his first movie!)
Enjoying Target's new Halloween items!
2) Sunday was a little more relaxing. We had an early lunch with my Mother-in-law to celebrate her birthday. Later I took Grant out for a bike ride (I was walking and he left me in his dust!) followed by some good ol' sandbox play. And we made some fun marshmallow treats for Grant and his classmates the next day.
It was such a gorgeous day!
Mama's kitchen helper!
3) Since I work downtown next to the Science Museum, I see a lot of what goes on there. This past weekend was Bugfest, which we didn't go to, but they always do a sand sculpture for it and I always look forward to seeing what it is. Monday on my way into the office I got to check out this year's sculpture.

4) I made some really yummy baked potato soup to celebrate the arrival of Fall :) 
{recipe here}

5) I surprised my little Ninja Turtle lover with a fun hoodie I thought he might like. With it being a little chilly this week, he's been able to wear it every day and couldn't be happier about it!
This was taken when he first tried it on. I promise he
does wear pants when he leaves the house.
6) After about a month of no desire to exercise from my crazy schedule, I'm going to try to get back into some running and walking. It sure felt great out there this week!

Happy Friday!
Have a great weekend!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Recipe: Easy Baked Potato Soup {Crockpot}

My mother-in-law likes to share recipes she finds on facebook and  periodically emails me recipes too. That works out pretty well since I don't always remember to save all the yummy things I see on facebook to my Pinterest boards. A while back she had emailed me this recipe for baked potato soup in the crockpot. I kept it and mentally told myself I'd make it "soon".

"Soon" ended up being this past weekend and with real Fall weather getting closer every day (THANK GOD), soup sounded fantastic. I don't know where the recipe came from originally so I hate to post it without being able to give credit where its due but I also hate to not share something so easy and delicious (and really open for all kinds variations). My version is a lower sodium version. Husband is on blood pressure medicine so for years now I've been trying to find any way I can to cut down our sodium intake (because it's not good for any of us, but especially him) without cutting out flavor. It's not sodium-free and I don't know if I can even call it "low sodium" but it's definitely "lower"...so I tried, eh?

Crappy picture taken with my phone during my lunch break...
but I hate posting a recipe with a picture of the finished product!
Crockpot Potato Soup
  • 1 30 oz. of frozen diced hash browns (do not thaw)
  • 1 32 oz. box of chicken broth
  • 1 can (10 oz) Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 3 oz. bacon bits
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste
Directions:
  1. Pour your chicken broth and can of Cream of Chicken soup into your crockpot, stir to combine. Add your frozen hash browns, half your bacon bits and the seasoning you want to use (salt, pepper, onion powder), stir. Cook on low about 6-8 hours.
  2. About an hour before serving, cut the cream cheese into small cubes and add them to your crockpot. Mix a few times through the hour. The soup is done when the cream cheese is completely mixed in.
  3. To serve, top with some shredded cheddar cheese and reserved bacon bits.
The recipe above is basically how it was emailed to me.

How I made it lower sodium: 
  • Chicken broth is a staple in my kitchen. I find myself grabbing for it on recipes that don't even call for it. A co-worker turned me on to Pacific Low Sodium Chicken Broth. Its probably the only thing I buy that's "organic". You're not likely to find me jumping on the organic bandwagon trend, I don't buy the hype, but this is the lowest sodium I've ever found in chicken broth so this I buy (a whole box of this broth still has less sodium equivalent than a serving of most other brands - also, I'm not advertising for them, I just like the product). 
  • I use the "Healthy Request" Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup in place of regular any time I can get away with it. It cuts the sodium content in half (along with fat and calories) and no one in my house has complained that the taste is different. 
  • I'm not a fan of bacon bits at all. If I make a recipe that calls for bacon, I cook it. But I'm also not a fan of bacon in soup (chewy bacon makes me gaggy). I was actually going to omit the bacon entirely from this but I saw turkey bacon bits in the grocery store and since Husband is a lover of all things bacon, I figured that was a decent compromise. It also cut sodium there too because the turkey bacon is lower (it had to have cut fat as well because the regular bacon bits looked like nothing but nasty bits of fat).
So those are my "sodium cutting" tricks for this semi-homemade soup recipe. Using that broth and the "healthy request" canned soup, it was a little bland but that's ok because I can add my own salt (or try to pump up flavor with other seasonings). I think soon I'm going to try one of those homemade canned soup substitutes since I'm not really a canned soup lover. 

Notes/Suggestions:
  • This only took about 6 hours in my crockpot.
  • I used a 34 oz bag of hash browns so I upped my broth by a cup or two throughout the cooking process.
  • Next time I plan to double the recipe (except the bacon) but will replace one bag of potatoes with a bag of frozen corn. I love potato and corn chowder!
  • During last nights trip to the grocery store I checked out different brands of hash browns and noticed that the Ore-Ida brand had a much lower calorie/fat/sodium content than the store brand ones I used.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Grant's Real 4th Birthday

Right after Grant's 4th birthday (actual birthday, what this post is about), my schedule went haywire. Not unexpectedly, this is the time of year at work when we start our fair prep and fair travels. But that's why I'm posting this three weeks after the fact. Husband and I took the day off to spend with Grant and we had such a great day that I've really been wanting to write about it. We told him we would spend the day doing whatever he wanted. He said "Ummm...I know what's fun. We could get snow cones! Is that a great idea?" So we named a bunch of that could be done in a day trip and Grant picked the zoo. 

The night before we stayed out too late at a baseball game. We were all having so much fun and we didn't have to get up for work or school the next day so we stayed until the end.

I made sure not to sleep in too late the next morning so I could do a little birthday surprise for Grant. Last year I blew up a bunch of balloons early in the morning and put them all over his floor while he was sleeping. This year I did that and took some leftover streamers from his party and made a barricade across his door to break through.


I did all that before jumping in the shower. I was sure he'd wake up while I was in the shower and I'd miss the whole thing but he didn't. Not long after I was out of the shower, we heard him rustling around and at the moment he noticed the balloons we heard "Huh?!" So we were standing outside his door when he opened it, saw the barricade, and said "Who put this here?!" So we explained that he had to break out.


It was a bit anti-climactic but he had to pee. But after hitting the potty he was right back in his room having a blast with the balloons.


Then it was getting ready and heading for the zoo. After opening one present that I knew he'd want to bring along in the truck.

It was Firefighter Dusty from the new Planes movie.
So the zoo ended up being a fantastic pick. It was a Tuesday so there was no crowd at all and at some points feeling like we had the place to ourselves. It was great. We once again started in Africa, with me bound and determined to feed a giraffe. And once again, I left without feeding a giraffe. I really need them to cooperate, it's on my bucket list!


I still think they're awesome. Moody, but awesome.
I don't think anyone was going to forget how old he turned that day!
It was a warm day but not unpleasant and the lack of crowds made it perfect. We got there a little late (since we all slept in a bit) so we didn't really make a point of seeing everything. We made sure to hit all of Grant's favorites!

We seemed to have caught the lion during his afternoon nap.
Grant thought this monkey hanging out way up there was too funny!
Grant & Daddy checking out the monkeys
And we saw some zebra butt.
At this point I think Grant had asked where the elephants were about 47 times and, thankfully, they were next.


What boy doesn't love a helicopter he can climb on?
The elephants are my favorite :)

After that we wandered through the trails, had lunch, saw a bunch of stuff, and enjoyed our day together.

I love this picture!
Grant thought the giant eggs were so fun!

 On our previous trips to the zoo they'd had a dinosaur exhibit but this time it was a giant bug exhibit. 



He loved all the big bugs (they moved too) and waved bye
to all of them as we moved on to the next one.
This one you could move with controls, he really liked that.
Ha!
He loved the dung beetle poop too!
The second to the last bug was some kind of beetle that sprays acid to protect itself. The bug in the exhibit sprayed water. Husband and I made it through without getting sprayed and were trying to tell Grant when to run but he wasn't fast enough and got sprayed (nothing drastic, he wasn't soaked or anything). For the rest of the day, to anyone who would listen we heard him say "That bug peed on me." Even when we left the zoo and asked it he had a good day and talked about all the stuff we did. He'd say he had a good time, what he liked, and then say "But that bug peed on me." Scarred for life.

This geyser was a bit attraction for Grant. I think he could
have watched it all day! And it sprayed a nice mist too.
It was a nice cooling off point :)
We stopped at the playground area for just a bit before moving on to the seals, polar bear (who was too busy banging on his door for food to come see us), turtles, and of course...the alligators!


Grant was point out the seal to a woman standing nearby.
Always a favorite with Grant.
I think what amused me the most that day was Grant's friendliness. I wouldn't say he's super shy but he's not generally a "talk to everyone" kind of kid. But that day? I swear everyone we came across at the zoo, Grant had to talk to them. At one of the bear exhibits, the bear had just gone through some door just as a man and his girlfriend were walking up. Grant heard the guy mumble something about no bear. Grant stood there with his arms crossed and said "The bear was just here. He went around the corner. I think he was looking for food!" So the guy asked him some stuff about the zoo, they had a little conversation, and we kept going. He did that so much that day! I was so amused.

We left the zoo just as they were closing and took the bus shuttle back to the truck. A ride in a bus was the topper to the day for Grant. Husband and I were exhausted but Grant was a little bundle of excitement on that bus. Then he was asleep in the truck before we left the parking lot (I napped too!). When we got home, he got to open the rest of his birthday presents (one of which was a new board game that is now his favorite game to play).
He told me he wanted Boulder from Rescue Bots...he's loves
his new Boulder!
A week-day-off to celebrate Grant, just the three of us, was a great way to spend the day. I'm glad we got to do what he wanted and that he had so much fun. We didn't end up getting the snow cones he suggested but later on that week was his 4 year check-up that included his kindergarten shots. Who can't use a snow cone after shots? So I took him for a snow cone after dinner that night where he told me "Mmmm...this is delicious. This was a great idea." He's all about the great ideas lately!

Friday, August 29, 2014

High Five for Friday

Today I'm linking up with Lauren and Jennie to share some of my favorite stuff from the past week. 

1) As Grant's "big" birthday present, we (yes, WE) built him a sandbox! I was really nagging Husband about getting it built and filled because I wanted it done before his actual birthday so the kids at his party could play. We got it set up the weekend before but last Friday finally got some sand for it. It rained so the first time Grant really got to play in it was Saturday at his party with his friends.
Take Sunday morning after his party but it's a nice shot of
our handy work :) While playing Grant told me "I love this sandbox!"
2) Saturday we had Grant's birthday party! I love his birthdays and planning his parties. The older he gets the more excited he gets and he was beside himself with excitement waiting for the day to get here. And he had the best day! (More on the party HERE)
The Avengers cake I made him
Me and my sister-in-law, Hollie, having too much fun with
the masks I made for the kids!
3) Monday was Grant's first day of pre-K! Or, as he calls it, "pre-K school". It was a bit bittersweet (because along with pre-K comes instant talk of kindergarten) but he was so excited!

4) Monday night we stayed out too late and went to a Durham Bulls baseball game. We ended up staying the whole game (we were off the next day for Grant's real birthday) and the Bulls won and won their division championship. It was a really fun night (and I discovered my new favorite ballpark treat: an Italian ice topped with frozen custard - life changing!).
Me & Grant in our awesome Yankees jerseys...and
Husband in that crappy White Sox one (hehehe).


5) We took Tuesday off to spend the day with Grant for his actual birthday. He got to pick what we did, he chose the zoo. It was blissfully uncrowded and we had a great day! (P.S. I still haven't fed a giraffe.)




Happy Friday!
Have a great weekend!
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